The March for Science is on Saturday.
Will J Grant and Rod Lambert struggled with the message behind the “March for Science” at The Conversation. We should march, they said a month ago, because “science is a human process”, which will be news to people who thought science was about evidence and reason instead. On Saturday they will be marching for the kind of science that is “passion” and “belief”. Don’t turn up thinking this is about the dispassionate Laws of Physics. You’ll be at the wrong rally.
Is the March to solve a problem or create one?
The March seems to be fighting strawmen. It is supposedly about “Encouraging scientists to share their research” (as if scientists like to hide their research). We know they hide their data, their methods and their adjustments, but when the ABC turns up to interview them, they don’t seem to hide their opinions. They hide their declines but don’t hide their Nobel Prizes (even if they didn’t get them). Do they need encouragement?
And the March is there, apparently, “affirming science as a vital feature of a working democracy”, who says it isn’t? Like voters have been asking for witchdoctors instead? Absolutely no one is questioning science’s role in democracy. Science has such an incredible halo, it is considered to be so-above-question that everyone wants to brand their version of reality as “science”. There are no marches for stone-age solutions, no “anti-science” movements (except inadvertently by those who think models produce evidence). But those who falsely cloak themselves in the science flag want us to think there is an anti-science movement, so this feeds their own comfortable delusion.
There is major muddying going on here
What does it mean to “advocate for open and accessible science?” . These are the same people who fight to the death to prevent heretics from publishing a paper, or from doing a radio interview, or from opening a research centre. The point of including statements like that is to blur the reality for onlookers and fool the puppet marchers. It’s just more “fog”.
It’s a march for “robust funding” (give us the money)
Those who can’t discover something useful have to march in the streets instead. The March is one big Pat-on-The-Back for the crusaders for taxpayer funds.
It’s a feel good March: feel good about your IQ
The organisers want Marchers to feel like they have the high ground, the smarts, but check out the advice to the noble superior mind:
Don’t pick fights (either verbal, physical or metaphorical) with people who you think are dumb, wrong, dangerous or unpleasant.
That ugly sentiment gets repeated (in case you missed it):
But do stick to your guns. [Whatever they are, eh?.] Appealing to broader interests doesn’t have to mean pandering to interests that you think are dumb, wrong, dangerous or just plain unpleasant.
People with a different scientific opinion are obviously dumb, wrong, dangerous or just unpleasant. Plenty of smug warfare going on here.
Grant and Lamberts advice includes telling Marchers “Now is not the time to try to “correct” the misconceptions and “woo” of people who might not be as scientifically informed as you. ” He might as well put out a clickbait advertisement for a free booster shot of scientific ego. This march is for the A+ science students who never got A but know they should have. Come march with us, we are all so clevah.
And they’ll need to be clever if they are going to simultaneously follow his advice and “not correct misconceptions” while they also “stick to their guns”.
Advice, point 7, is to bring sex workers:
Publicly embrace others, and get them to embrace you. If anyone should stand out at this march, it’s people who aren’t scientists. Do you know a group of firefighters, senior citizens or sex-workers who’d be prepared to march with signs saying “[non-science group of people] for science”? Give them a call and get them on board. Maybe get them to dress in uniform!
Lamberts and Grant wrote this article a month ago but openly admit they were struggling to explain why they were marching.
Don’t miss the clarity in the closer:
Now get out there
There’s still a bit of time to think about this and get it right. Of course, what “right” means will differ from person to person, so let’s get that clear before rushing out on April 22 and making all kinds of different noises.
For skeptical scientists, if we were Marching for Science we wouldn’t have to work out what we were marching for with four weeks to go.
It’s a wonderful feeling to unite with like-minded people, but let’s strive to show we are united for something that non-science people can relate to as well, or we’ll be portrayed as being united against those very same folks.
So even when you are making “different noises” in a march that no one knows what the mission is, it’s good to unite with “like-minds” — people who are just as confused.
As for being afraid of being portrayed as being united against “those very same folks” — the Marchers might stop calling them dumb, wrong, dangerous and unpleasant maybe?